WCN0921 Archives - West Coast Nut

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Science of the Shake

During August and September, there is a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on” in California’s Central Valley. Mature nuts rain from almond, pistachio and walnut trees over a span of seconds when trunk shakers grip the trunks and send a wave of energy up the tree. Seconds later, the shaking ceases, the shaker releases and the harvester moves quickly to the next tree. Efficiency of this harvest operation far outstrips the early use of long poles to knock nuts onto a tarp on the ground. Factors that contribute to the efficiency of the shake include its frequency, amplitude, tree size and...

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New Wolfskill Variety ‘A Good Bet’ for an Early Season Walnut

For walnut grower Davin Norene, the new UC Davis walnut variety Wolfskill is the best bet yet for an early season variety that delivers quality and yield and isn’t overly susceptible to walnut blight. And he has been looking for a while now. “You don’t know anything for about 15 years in a commercial setting,” Norene said, “but Wolfskill is promising. It is a good bet.” Since the 1960s, dating back to when his father and grandfather planted Ashley, Norene Ranches has grown early season walnut varieties with varying success. Wolfskill, Norene hopes, is the best of the batch. To...

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Western Water Infrastructure Bill Could Bring Needed Relief to Farmers

Farmers are no strangers to dealing with uncertainty. We always struggle with variations in weather, and last year we were thrown a new curve when trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the demand for our crops, our workers’ health and our ability to grow, harvest and deliver products. And now, we’re in the middle of a crippling drought and forced to make difficult decisions about what we can grow given the availability and cost of water. As unaccustomed as we are to good news, there actually could be some on the horizon. The western water shortages that are...

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Taking Flight

Research in a Colusa County almond orchard that compared insecticide applications using an unmanned aerial vehicle to an airblast sprayer found no statistical differences in navel orangeworm (NOW) control. But Ken Giles, a UC Davis professor emeritus in biological and agricultural engineering and one of the researchers, warned against drawing conclusions or extrapolating the results to other situations. The trial involved only one orchard, one crop protection material, two almond varieties, one UAV model and one season of data. “We really want to be cautious, especially early on with these trials,” he said. “In this experiment, it worked well and...

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No Salty Feelings for the U.S. Pistachio Outlook

U.S. pistachio production is projected to continue setting new records in years to come. Under normal economic and growing conditions, U.S. pistachio shipments are expected to keep pace with expanding U.S. supplies, and the price outlook remains positive. Industry-wide challenges, such as drought and regulations, exist going forward, but so do opportunities, such as export demand, plant-based protein diets and more. [caption id="attachment_10795" align="aligncenter" width="436"] Fig. 1: Pistachio production by country and U.S. share of global production, 2011-12 to 2020-21[/caption]   Global Market Prefers Quality Pistachio production reached a new global record of over...

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Going for Gold: Feed Your Trees Like Elite Athletes in Training

It’s that time of year again. Harvest is in full swing for almonds, pistachios have started and walnuts and pecans are right around the corner. What better time for more of Rich’s goofy analogies than now, and certainly, right after the Olympics. So, let’s get back to comparing your trees to athletes. I read somewhere five years ago that Michael Phelps was consuming 10,000 to 12,000 calories per day when he was in beast mode getting ready for the gold medals he was planning to drape over his swollen neck. When they described the meals he was eating, items such...

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Despite Drought, Early No. Cal Almond Harvest Shows Good Quality and Production

It was August and harvest was underway in most almond orchards across California. For many growers, such as D.C. Felciano, general manager of JJB Farms in Tehama County, this year’s harvest came about two weeks earlier than usual. “I’m assuming it’s due to the heat and the drought conditions we are suffering through this year,” he said. Initially, the USDA and NASS had forecast the 2021 almond crop size at 3.2 billion pounds, then in July reduced that estimate to 2.8 billion pounds, a 12.5% reduction, amounting to the largest swing by percentage between the two forecasts since at least...

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WAPA Welcomes First Female Board Chair

Kim Keyawa-Musselman was a little concerned she might hit a glass ceiling as she ascended the leadership ladder of the board of directors of the Western Agricultural Processors Association. But as she rose to become the first female WAPA chair she says instead she found a supportive catapult in members and fellow directors, who recognized the value her youthful energy and background in her family’s walnut growing and processing business could bring to the organization and lifted her through the matriculation process. Keyawa-Musselman took the reins of the organization from outgoing chairman Butch Coburn at the association’s annual meeting in...

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5 Things on a Walnut Grower’s Mind in September

September is an interesting month for a California walnut grower. Orchards have been irrigated and fertilized all summer to maximize production. Pests and weeds have been controlled and the trees are now heavy with a crop. Harvest equipment is ready and waiting for drivers. Growers are waiting for the right time to begin.   1. Walnut Prices Poised to begin another harvest, growers are hopeful that the nut quality and yields they worked so hard to achieve this year will be rewarded with good prices, those that will cover their costs of production. “We are literally at the bottom of...

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Growers Going Over-the-Top with Hazelnut Harvester

The rocky, river-bottom soil that Carter Clark’s young hazelnut orchard sits on is not conducive to conventional harvesting, and as trees were maturing, Clark was not looking forward to harvest. Fortunately, Andrew Herr, chief marketing officer of Littau Harvester, which is headquartered a couple of miles from Clark’s orchard in Stayton, Ore., offered Clark an alternative. For a fee, Herr proposed, Littau could harvest the nuts with a mechanical blueberry harvester by going over the top of the young trees and catching the nuts before they ever hit the ground. Clark jumped at the offer. The over-the-row harvester offered few...

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Wildfire Smoke Considerations: How to Protect Outdoor Workers This Fire Season

It’s no secret that California’s dry, hot climate from spring to late fall, coupled with our recent drought conditions, creates the optimal environment for wildfires to emerge across the state. In recent years, the length of the wildfire season has expanded, the fires have grown, and they are encroaching in on our fields and orchards. In 2020, there were over 8,100 fires that burned more the 4.5 million acres of land in California. These conditions have led the Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Occupational Safety and Standards Board in February 2021 to adopt a safety standard to protect outdoor workers....

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Almond Irrigation Systems of the Future

Implementation of new irrigation system technologies and strategies is continuously on tree nut growers’ minds. Irrigation systems of the future will need to be nimble and flexible to deal with variability in the orchard for maximum water use efficiency. Growers may look at water use as it relates to rate and timing, but there is another important aspect to consider when designing an irrigation system in an orchard, known as spatiotemporal variability. Spatiotemporal variability may be caused by variation in soil physical and hydraulic properties, which affects soil water infiltration rates. Soils that have high spatiotemporal variability are said to...

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Almond Growers “Squeak By” On Limited Water Supplies

Many of California’s almond growers faced some tough decisions this year when it came to water availability for their orchards. And, it isn’t likely that any two had the exact same decision to make given the wide variability in management, growing regions, soils and water. “Strategies are radically different depending on where you are located,” said Tom Devol, Almond Board of California’s senior manager of field outreach and education. Some growers knew what their surface deliveries would be and if they could be stretched across the entire growing season. Some, who depend solely on groundwater, lost all water when wells...

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Pistachios May Need a Little Extra TLC This Post-Harvest

Given this year’s dry spring and summer, pistachio orchards may need some extra TLC postharvest. Water, nutrients and pest control are the focus. Re-hydrating trees, if possible, then application of organic acids and soil amendments as soon as possible after harvest is recommended. The organic acids, humic acid and fluvic acid, are the final breakdown constituents of the natural decay of plant and animal materials. Organic acid applications are a way to provide plants and soil with a concentrated dose of essential nutrients, vitamins and trace elements.   Moving Nutrients Water is key to moving the nutrients through the soil...

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Grower Insights: Nick Rocca

There’s a balance to be found between honoring the past and preparing for the future. Fresno County farmer Nick Rocca knows that. Rocca is a fourth-generation farmer who grows almonds, raisin grapes and pumpkins. He and his dad, Randy Rocca, also have farm management and grape harvesting companies, and the family is considering getting into agrotourism. He also works for as an equipment specialist for Sun Pacific Farms, which operates across much of California. Rocca graduated from high school in 2007 and wanted to get right into farming. He said his dad gave him some words of wisdom: It was...

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Reaching Pecan Consumers through Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists

A key audience the American Pecan Council (APC) has identified and been pleased to gain inroads into is the world of credentialed health and wellness professionals (registered dietitian nutritionists, physicians, nurses, fitness professionals, etc.) This community of highly engaged and influential individuals are passionate about promoting holistic, healthy living and educating those who look to them to make informed food choices that will nourish and fuel one’s body. Naturally, we wanted to put pecans in front of these professionals! In 2020, we hired Eat Well Global, a strategic communication consultancy that specializes in reaching change agents in food and nutrition,...

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New Cover Crop Best Management Practices Provide Answers

In the past, many growers’ experience with cover crops has started and ended with questions. “How can I harvest my crop when there is extra vegetation on the orchard floor?” “I heard having a cover crop in the middles increases the risk of frost damage, is that true?” “Why would I plant cover crops to compete with blossoms and detract from bees’ almond pollination?” Formerly, these questions and lingering unknowns kept many growers from considering the use of cover crops in or around their orchards. Today, however, research is delivering answers; after 10 years of investigating cover crops in almond...

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Forklift Rule 2.0

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has announced the next iteration of their Large Spark Ignited (LSI) Regulation, Forklift Rule 2.0. The LSI regulation includes propane forklifts used in agricultural operations like tree nut hullers and processors. This next iteration of the LSI is proposing to mandate all electric forklifts across the board, with a few exceptions. In proposing to mandate all electric forklifts, CARB has indicated they believe it is “cheaper to own and operate an electric forklift than a propane forklift.” This new proposed mandate comes in the midst of agricultural operations required to meet other regulatory burdens...

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Pistachio Salinity Management

Two back-to-back years of dry winters with little snowpack has delivered an exceptional drought across California. Extreme heat in early June compounded the devastating impact dry conditions have had on agricultural crops across the Central Valley this growing season. In many areas, limited water supply has increased reliance on lower quality sources of irrigation water, which can initiate or intensify soil salinization problems. Salinization is the accumulation of salts in top layers of the soil, which intensifies when surface evaporation exceeds annual precipitation or when salts are inadequately leached due to problems with soil drainage.   Salinity and Soil Reclamation...

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